Year 4, Month 1, Day 30: Look! Look! A Mouse!

The headline reads “Speech Gives Climate Goals Center Stage.” The New York Times (which recently shut down its Environment desk entirely):

WASHINGTON — President Obama made addressing climate change the most prominent policy vow of his second Inaugural Address, setting in motion what Democrats say will be a deliberately paced but aggressive campaign built around the use of his executive powers to sidestep Congressional opposition.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Mr. Obama said on Monday at the start of eight sentences on the subject, more than he devoted to any other specific area. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

The central place he gave to the subject seemed to answer the question of whether he considered it a realistic second-term priority. He devoted scant attention to it in the campaign and has delivered a mixed message about its importance since the election.

I’m a literary dude, I guess. Sent January 23:

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! / You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout.”
Climate change may have taken center stage in the President’s second inaugural address, but its primus inter pares position in Mr. Obama’s rhetoric is nothing compared with the scene-stealing we can expect from the accelerating greenhouse effect over the next four years. With profound and far-reaching geopolitical, humanitarian, economic, and environmental implications, our transforming climate will become the single most influential player in world affairs. Well before the end of this century, the human costs of extreme weather, droughts, heat waves, and rising sea levels will dwarf that of all planetary armed conflicts combined; include the impact on the rest of Earth’s biota, and it’s uncomfortably likely that “ingrateful man’s” fossil-fueled madness may well presage the final act of a Lear-like tragedy, leaving only a few survivors on a planet ravaged by “sulphurous and thought-executing fires.”

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 10, Day 31: A Cheerful Thought.

USA Today points out that frogs in the pot of boiling water are more likely to start wars with one another:

If climate change predictions turn out to be true, some parts of the world could become more violent, according to a new study released today.

“The relationship between temperature and conflict shows that much warmer-than-normal temperatures raise the risk of violence,” the authors write in the study, which appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study was led by John O’Loughlin, a professor of geography at the University of Colorado. It was done in concert with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

This study is not trying to draw parallels to how violence escalates in some urban areas in the summer due to heat, reports O’Loughlin. This is about how warmer temperatures cause stresses on crops and grasslands, forcing people to fight with their neighbors for food and other resources.

O’Loughlin and his team examined the influence of temperature and precipitation on the risk of violent conflict in nine East African countries between 1990 and 2009, and found that increased precipitation dampened the risk of violence, whereas very hot temperatures raised it.

The changer things get, the samer they stay. Sent October 24:

As the planet’s atmosphere heats, the potential for extreme weather increases. The extra energy triggered by the accelerating greenhouse effect will show up as unseasonal storms, unpredictable rain and snow, careening high and low temperatures, and bizarre events. It’s hardly surprising that the seasons of human life will be likewise disrupted.

In the coming years of climate crisis, nations everywhere will be faced with massive stresses and strains: famines, droughts, refugee crises, and resource conflicts. While we cannot forecast exactly whose boundaries will be rent asunder by the ravages of a transforming climate, there’s no doubt that the twenty-first century will be packed with international emergencies.

It’s not just reinforced roads and bridges, or a decentralized power grid. If we are to avoid climate change’s geopolitical impacts, the world’s nations must develop a robust diplomatic infrastructure to prevent Earth’s radically transforming environment from forcing us into devastating wars.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 6, Day 1: I Wanna Go To Andorra

The Guardian (UK) notes that the US armed forces are actively preparing for the problems of climate change:

Federal legislation to combat climate change is quashed for the foreseeable future, scuttled by congressional climate cranks who allege the climate-science jury is still out. What’s become clear is that, for some, the jury will always be out. We can’t stack scientific facts high enough to hop over the fortified ideological walls they’ve erected around themselves. Fortunately, though, a four-star trump card waits in the wings: the US national security apparatus.

The comments are priceless. Sent May 20:

The cognitive dissonance involved in being a modern-day Republican is extreme, and it will no doubt be further exacerbated by the conclusions drawn by the United States military on the dangers posed by climate change. With a record that includes decades of posturing about “deferring to the generals” on defense issues, the GOP is now in a bit of a box when it comes to responding to the armed forces’ consensus on the strategic consequences of the greenhouse effect. Forced by the exigencies of Republican primary elections to deny simultaneously both scientific evidence and the advice of their military leaders, these anti-science legislators have an impossible needle to thread. Were the issues involved not ones of such great moment, the dilemma of contemporary conservatives would be irresistibly comical. Alas, this is no laughing matter — an assessment bolstered by every single strategic analysis of climate change and its epiphenomena.

Warren Senders